Do not fear honesty. It is the only way forward.
And Yet She's Happy
There is usually a crowd here, but today, no. Some big football game, I hear, may be calling folks elsewhere.The trail stretches out in front of Attica and me, sun dappling through the tree canopy, the first of the fall leaves crunching underneath as we roll over them. We pick up speed, as she likes to run and it’s miles at times before we even see another person. We swirl around the engineered swamplands, the cattails barely moving in the unseasonable 90-degree heat. We stop briefly and I think about how I felt that first time I brought Attica here after emancipating her from the attic after 20 years (see my book for that story, and more).As I pause to drink some water, I step back to take this picture and look at her. She’s a bit worse for the wear after these past four years, and I promise myself to rewrap her handlebars, replace the torn brake hoods, and touch her up with some paint. And yet she’s happy, and I’m happy, and for the next 16 glorious miles, all is well with the world.learning as I grow (by Pattie Baker)
It’s always cool to pass the enormous mural of Civil Rights icon, John Lewis, on Sweet Auburn Avenue, and it was especially nice as part of Bicycle Tours of Atlanta’s Journey for Civil Rights Tour. But what’s even better, at least for a proud mama? That my younger daughter performed her original song, Better, for John Lewis recently at the Center for Civil and Human Rights, accompanied by the rest of the teen members of the Alliance Theater’s Palefsky Collision Project. That was cool. (And, by the way, don't miss the MARCH trilogy of graphic novels. Astounding.)
If interested, see my author page on Amazon.learning as I grow (by Pattie Baker)
On This Day of Disaster (Yet Again)
And on this day, yet again, of disaster and despair, I reiterate to local and national leaders who refuse to create a better, safer, and more equitable world that I will not walk in the gutter of your failed imagination.
If interested, see my author page on Amazon.learning as I grow (by Pattie Baker)
- Poems at the Speed of Bike
I received a package that contained two cool reusable beverage containers. One said "Take The Lane. That's How I Roll" and the other had the number and name of one of our local MARTA train stops. It was from a high school senior who is the daughter of a friend of mine (he, I, and others had started the community garden, which used to be organic and open to the public). The student is in the finance academy at the local high school, where students team up to start and run businesses. She and her partner are custom-laser-printing stainless steel, BPA-free products, and the fact that being "eco" is not even really a selling point anymore -- it's just normal -- is pretty darn cool to me.
photo from PerimeterLaser
They call their company Perimeter Laser and are selling them to local organizations and at events and apparently doing quite well. That they secured the URL Perimeterlaser.com in an area called the Perimeter that is the home of the largest concentration of Fortune 500 companies in the southeastern United States and many small businesses is particularly impressive. The fact that I had to stop taking the lane in our suburb-city recently and now almost exclusively drive a car to take a train to ride my bike somewhere safer is not. However, thanks to Perimeter Laser, at least I have awesome beverage containers to bring with me now to help promote their business.
Note: I am sad to announce that at the exact moment I hit "publish" on this post, our city leaders are expected to vote to adopt a 20-year transportation plan update that does not provide a cohesive, connected safe-for-all network (no, the Dunwoody Woodline, however great it sounds, isn't happening). The next vote that matters to me, however, is this fall, when I get to help choose our city's next leaders. I'm laser-focused on voting for change. I also encourage parents of younger children thinking of having more children (and those not yet having children) to consider running for future office. Perimeter Laser's founders head off to college next year, but those babies yet unborn here still stand a chance to live in a city with safe-access-for-all before they grow up.
learning as I grow (by Pattie Baker)
I pass a man often (including last week, pictured) while traveling at the speed of bike whom I nicknamed Skinny Santa years ago. He served as the model for a repeating character in my overlapping collection of flash fiction stories inspired by original street photography, Stranger Things Happen.
I pass people and scenes from my book so often that it's as if I'm living in the movie every single day, with a storyline that just keeps going. Maybe you've seen moments like these, too:learning as I grow (by Pattie Baker)
Real Concerns about Artificial Turf
My suburb-city is cutting down 300 trees* to install two artificial turf playing fields at a public middle school. These will be used for sports leagues at night and for PE classes during the weekdays. My children are grown and will not be playing on these fields, yet I do feel a responsibility to share my red-flag about them with parents of younger children not just locally but throughout the United States as these fields are being added in many places. So here goes, for what it's worth**. Please do your own research and consider asking for detailed product information (not just the manufacturer's spec sheet) specific to your circumstance so you can provide informed consent before your child plays either willingly (in a league) or as required (in PE class at school) on these fields.
artificial turf field in neighboring Norcross, GA
It appears that there are unknown answers regarding the long-term safety and health effects of various materials used in typical artificial turf***, especially on the still-growing bodies of children. Both the EPA and the CDC are currently conducting studies which do not yet have results or recommendations. I am a precautionary-principle person, especially when it comes to kids, and am not a fan of my children being guinea pigs so the use of these fields at this middle school would have been an issue for me as a parent.
Please be an informed consumer and citizen and take a look at the recent (May 2017) Artificial Turf Health-Based Consumer Guide from Mt. Sinai's Children's Environmental Health Center. It will help you understand what questions you may want to ask your city or school, and what to have your child do to increase safety after playing on an artificial turf field (good luck getting schools to let them take showers after PE).
I am not interested in starting or participating in a debate about artificial turf, cutting down trees, public ballfields or anything else related. My entire intention is to share my concern, parent-to-parent, and to pass this one on to the next generation.
If interested, see my author page on Amazon.
* I know there are competing issues of sustainability whenever trees are cut down (I wrote this post, which includes a video, about that very topic when a multi-use trail through a wooded park was being built). I do think the revelation at the last minute that the current trees would all be removed for the ball fields, despite illustrations indicating otherwise when the community could still provide input, was wrong.
** You may find something additionally helpful regarding other issues in school in this older post of mine titled My Gifts to Parents of Younger Children as They Start a New School Year. Also, my book, Food for My Daughters, provides lots of food-for-thought about a wide range of issues relating to all aspects of sustainability.
*** I am particularly interested in the use of cork-based products for a wide range of uses (including as artificial turf) after the exhaustive research I did prior to and following an investigative journalism trip a few years ago where I traipsed through cork oak forests and factories. It is a miracle product with multiple desirable properties that is completely sustainable. If interested, take a peek at Talking Cork with Pattie Baker.learning as I grow (by Pattie Baker)
Just Putting It Out There
Just putting it out there -- I am a cultural anthropologist, manifesting my passion through street photography and storytelling. I did the corporate thing for years (both on staff and freelance), and then wrote articles, blogs (B-to-B and B-to-C), and books (see my Amazon page -- nonfiction and fiction). Am pivoting in the next year (am booked through May 2018, with an occasional freelance opening) -- starting to look at opportunities now.
If you need an insatiably-curious Mensa-member who wants to change the world "for good" on your team, let's take a bike ride together or grab a cup of coffee (am currently Atlanta-based but not married to it) . . .
Here's a sneak peek at the kind of self-driven projects I do "to bear witness" right now. I see things about your brand that you may not see, and I bring the kind of insight, honestly, and compassion you need in a world at a crossroads. Am particularly interested in companies/nonprofits/foundations committed to triple-bottom-line sustainability. Please see the kind reviews from my previous bosses. I'm a bit of an odd duck, and I know from experience that that could be a huge asset to you . . .learning as I grow (by Pattie Baker)
When You Hear about the Trail
So I took this photo not long before this two-way protected bike lane was removed. That’s its own story. But then this week the man (who lived in my suburb-city) who owned the neighborhood grocery store in that red building was murdered. This is next to an elementary school, directly across the street from a beloved urban farm that had already been forced to move from a different location, a five-minute bike ride from the new Mercedes Benz Stadium, and a five-minute walk from the historically-black colleges of the Atlanta University Center. So that’s its own story.This photo is from my longitudinal photo essay about this neighborhood. There are so many people doing so much good here. When you hear about the imminent official opening of the new Westside Trail section of the Atlanta BeltLine, I want you to be able to picture this street, this store, these people. These people’s lives and neighborhood deserve to get better.learning as I grow (by Pattie Baker)
Right Turns Only (2nd Post in a Series)
So getting out of my neighborhood gets harder and harder, for two clearly identifiable reasons--one, traffic, which has increased exponentially since I moved to metro Atlanta from New York City 27 years ago (has it been that long already? Where am I from anymore?), and two, what I'm guessing we can call a bit of a breakdown in the infamous Southern hospitality that so blew me away years ago when drivers would actually back up to let folks in.
After countless mornings of close-call moments where I felt like my life was hanging in the balance trying to make a left onto the main road, I threw up my hands and exclaimed, "That's it. From now on, I make only right hand turns. I'm done with lefts." And every day that month I thought about this. Could I do it? Could I only make rights? Of course I would need to write about it, so my mind got filled with thoughts of that, of how making only right hand turns could lead to trying to make only right decisions. And what, exactly, is right? And what would I call this exciting, sure-to-fly-off-the-shelves memoir? Making the Right Turn to a Better Life? You can see the abyss to which I descended rapidly on this fruitless journey.
My family hated the idea. My friends scoffed. I then shared this with a client of mine, whose office, thankfully, was to the right, and he said, "Pattie, get a pencil and paper. Now try to get to your city hall. You're going in a circle, Pattie -- don't you see? You're not going to get anywhere! You're going to waste time and gas. It doesn't work."
Okay, he had a point. But if I started riding my bike to the supermarket again (I gave up riding locally three weeks ago -- after this -- because it's so darn dangerous in my "family friendly" suburb-city) . . . And taking the bus to the train . . . And tapping in to civic happenings via live streaming . . . And doing all business meetings by phone . . . And never leaving my house . . .
And then I remembered someone else who had this idea decades ago and started doing it consistently about 11 years ago. Someone big.
I represent just one vehicle (and, frankly, I can hardly wait until the day I am car-less). But what if I were a global corporation with 108,210 package cars, vans, tractors, motorcycles, including more than 8,500 alternative fuel and advanced technology vehicles and 19 million daily deliveries and I decided not to make left turns (or right turns in countries where folks drive on the left)? What if I used package flow technologies that include preloading vehicles in the morning, routing drivers according to volume and favoring right-hand turns?
Well, if I were UPS, the worldwide package delivery company, and I decided to do this, I would save time (rights are faster) and I would save fuel, wages, and vehicle running costs to the tune of 300-400 million dollars annually. And yes, by making this one little change, I would help save the planet (UPS reduces its emissions the equivalent of 20,000 passenger cars annually), not to mention my sanity. (If I still worked at the UPS global headquarters five miles from my home, I could even get there just with rights, although I'm not planning on working anywhere ever again to which I can't get via bike.)Bravo to UPS for recognizing that little things matter. Now, if a UPS driver would just let me out of my neighborhood this morning, I'd appreciate it!P.S. I also hear UPS is pilot-testing package delivery by e-tricycle in select cities. I love that! Maybe some of the seniors in my Silver Spokes tricycle class in Decatur, GA could drive for you one day as encore careers -- but, unfortunately, not anywhere near your unsafe-to-bike global headquarters in Sandy Springs or neighboring Dunwoody, GA. Speaking of that, any chance you can do something about making around your headquarters more bike-friendly, or helping your employees find a way to include bikes in their commutes? This can boost productivity, improve health costs, and improve recruitment and retention. I can help. Also, pssst, maybe a policy against parking in bike lanes? It's illegal, dangerous, and tarnishes your
brand's commitment to safety. You may not even know this is happening :(
Here is my "Corporations: What Good Are You?" Series to Date:
(1) Corporations: What Good Are You?(2) Right Turns Only
Posts to come (probably one each week) will shine a light on one good thing for the earth each of the following metro-Atlanta-based corporations are doing: Turner Broadcasting, Cox Enterprises, Coca Cola, Georgia Pacific, Mercedes Benz, The Home Depot, and the Intercontinental Hotel Group. Like with the no-parking-in-bike-lanes-policy suggestion to UPS, I will most likely give one little rubber-hit-the-road suggestion to each corporation as well.learning as I grow (by Pattie Baker)